How Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson are actually quite similar – Daniel Johnson MSP

As the SNP rolled in to Aberdeen this week, Nicola Sturgeon let slip her real priority when it comes to Brexit – to exploit it as a means to independence.

Wednesday, 16th October 2019, 6:00 am
Nicola Sturgeon has refused to rule out a hard border between Scotland and England. Picture: PA

Speaking on Radio Scotland on Monday, she revealed that another independence vote was the real priority rather than a vote on a Brexit deal.

She also confirmed that she refuses to rule out a hard border between Scotland and England in the event of independence. Hard Brexit would be disastrous because of the costs and regulatory hurdles of being in a different customs zone and regulatory regime from the rest of the EU. By prioritising independence, not only does she undermine the possibility of avoiding the disaster of Brexit, she is contemplating creating the same set of issues between Scotland and England.

What is clear though is that ­independence would not save us from the problems we have experienced with Brexit. Nicola Sturgeon knows that an independence vote would cause chaos on a grander scale than what we have seen with Brexit. An independent ­Scotland trying to leave the UK would be faced with untangling the bonds of shared institutions and culture and would be a problem that would take years, not weeks, both to exit the UK and then to enter the EU. There would inevitably be a period where we were out of both.

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Not that this is the only cause for confusion. We were meant to have had another referendum by now. In March 2017, Sturgeon promised a vote by spring 2019.

Between then and this latest position there have been several deja-vu announcements and conference speeches aimed at appeasing those in her party for whom indyref2 is an article of faith.

People vs parliament

In reality her tactics and calculations share much with those of Boris Johnson. Boris Johnson does not expect his deal to be agreed by the EU. Indeed, his calculation is to engineer a rejection by the EU to create a “people vs the parliament” election.

Similarly, Nicola Sturgeon has raised the prospect of asking for a section 30 order, required for an independence vote, in the full expectation it will be denied. This would allow the SNP to put grievance front and centre in the Holyrood elections in 18 months’ time.

Like Johnson, she has not attempted talks or dialogue. If she was serious, surely there would be a detailed proposal on the table to be discussed with the UK Government. They’ve had the time to do it, she has been the FM for years rather than the few months of Boris’s premiership.

But no such ­documents exist and no talks have taken place because, like Johnson’s approach with ­Brussels, Sturgeon’s position on an independence referendum is deliberately designed to fail – designed to ­create an atmosphere of political turmoil that she seeks to exploit.

We should therefore worry about the idea aired by Alex Neil MSP. He ventured that a simple majority for the nationalists in the 2021 election could be grounds for declaring independence.

No need for a bothersome legally binding referendum. The common denominator between his position and the First Minister’s is this – regardless of circumstance or outcome, the only thing that matters is pursuing independence as expediently as possible.

That is the only way to explain how a hard border between the UK and Ireland is bad but an acceptable cost in the event of Scottish independence.

Daniel Johnson is the Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern